On a recent trip to Indonesia I had my first brush with flying angst. I’ve always liked planes. So much so that when I was a child all I dreamed about was being a pilot. The profession seemed very glamorous at the time. In hindsight I think it was more my desire to wear the uniform.
Much to my chagrin my mathematics and science capabilities weren’t quite up to scratch. So I became a traveller instead. Since this Indonesia flight was a short domestic one we were all herded into one of those tiny planes with propellers – the kind that fly to places such as Kimberley or Namibia back home.
I don’t know if it’s something do with the size of these planes but personally they amp up the feeling of fear when flying through turbulence. To me those little propellers just seem too flimsy. When the plane I was on started swishing about and my stomach started doing the same, I knew I was in for a white-knuckle ride. I’ve never heard so many burly men scream like little babies.
I’ve spent up to 16 hours on long haul flights but never have I ever waited anxiously for a flight to end. That hour felt like an eternity. When the plane did eventually touch down on the runway the general feeling of relief was palpable.
Having travelled for a while I’ve had my fair share of strange and uncomfortable transport experiences. In the Philippines I spent nine hours on a toddler size chair at the back of a boat that was far too overcrowded. What was sold to me as a safepassenger experience ended up being more of feeling like a refugee illegally crossing some border on a lifeboat. This was elevated by the fact that when the coast guard came to check on the number of passengers on the boat they hid some away.
There have been many bus rides. In Vietnam they have beds instead of seats on buses. Cambodia and India took that up a level with whole compartments complete with soft floors and carpeting inside.
If I had to choose my favourite mode of transport it would have to be the train. I love watching the world fly by and interacting with other people. From subways to sky trains I’ve been on many different kinds. South Korea had an impressive bullet train system that could take you from one end of the country to the other at lighting fast speeds. They also had a slow train option where one of their carriages was equipped with a karaoke machine. So big is the Koreans love to sing!
The Eurorail system is one of my favourites. It’s lovely to roll through a country on your way to a big destination. As a first-time traveller I remember marvelling at the metro system in Italy. People from all walks of life all going about their daily business. It’s a microcosm of the world outside.
If I had to choose, my favourite would be the old trains in Sri Lanka that roll through the landscape from beaches to tea fields high in the mountains. Transport and travel go hand in hand. And as the saying goes: “Life is about the journey; not the destination.”